) -- The gathering of loved ones throughout the holidays can have patriarchs and matriarchs thinking about the legacy they will leave behind for their family.
As these folks visit financial advisers to update wills, trusts and financial bequests, they may find themselves steered into a less tangible arena.
As baby boomers age, many see a need to pass along personal history, ethics and life lessons.
According to a recent study by
Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America
, there are four pillars to leaving a legacy, three of which -- financial assets and real estate, personal possessions of emotional value and wishes to be fulfilled -- typically are related to finances and money. A fourth objective is to impart values, ethics, traditions and life lessons, something 75% of surveyed baby boomers and their parents placed as the most important. Life lessons, ethics, values and traditions were all part of this category.
While plenty of advice exists for financial matters regarding heirs and philanthropy, Allianz identified what it calls a "legacy gap": Boomers are highly motivated to leave more than just money but struggle to find a way to do that successfully.
Enter personal historians, a variety of services catering to written, oral and video memoirs intended to inform, educate and guide loved ones.
Robert Jordan -- an Emmy Award-winning reporter and anchorman for WGN Television in Chicago -- founded the company
to cater to high net worth individuals.
Each year, he produces an average of two films -- personal documentaries -- that can cost $80,000 or more. The steep price tag, he says, allows his company to produce pieces in a style one might see "on television's A&E and the Biography Channel by hiring professional camera personnel, sound engineers and post-production editors." The shoots often require travel to multiple cities to capture the full range of locations that played key roles in a life.
Aimed at a more mainstream market is
, a subsidiary of
, a company that specializes in self-publishing and has seen revenue grow to $100 million company from $20 million over the past four years. Legacy Keepers, building upon the company's success, has established a national network of media freelancers to prepare and execute personal and family histories.
Keith Ogorek, senior vice-president of Legacy Keepers, stresses the difference between an "inheritance" and a "legacy." He cites the importance of the Allianz research in drawing attention to this growing concern of boomers.
"It identified that what is the largest transfer of wealth of any generation before is actually not just focused on the huge amount of
assets," he says. "They are interested in leaving a legacy that is more than just financial -- their values and lessons. The problem is, how do you do that? You can buy a scrapbook down at the
or you can really leave something that will be an heirloom that is preserved and kept for generations to come. There are different ways to do it. A lot of people are highly motivated to do this, but not sure how."
Ogorek says the generational characteristics of boomers, in particular a knack for self-expression not shared by older generations, helps explain the increased demand for passing down a biography or family history. The rise of social media has further steered folks in this direction.
"This takes things like
, which are sort of intangible, and makes something tangible," he says. "They want something they can pass down from generation to generation, and it's hard to pass down a Facebook page the way you can an elegant book or something like that. When you take the stories of someone's life and put them all together, it's pretty amazing how substantial that can be."
"We live in an age of snippets, sound bites, text messages and
," he adds. "People's lives are a lot more than just a series of snippets; they are a string of lessons and experiences. It is not until you put them all together that you really understand the weight and significance of ordinary lives telling extraordinary stories."
-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.
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